A look at “Late. A Cowboy Song”
It was a chilly evening in November, when the curtains opened on Cleveland State University’s theatre workshop production of “Late. A Cowboy Song,” directed by Toby Vera Bercovici. Taking a seat inside the intimate setting of the Blackbox theatre on East 13th Street, I watched as others entered and milled about. However, not everyone was an audience member. The talented cast of acting students had already begun performing before we even realized it.
The characters interacted with one another as they would in everyday life. They wandered about the space casually, holding conversations with one another.
The cast members took their seats on the set, consisting of a few tables and a simple backdrop. A play within a play makes up “Late. A Cowboy Song,” and the actors, complete with understudies, are seen attending their first read-through of the script.
The performance was interactive, and the actors were not confined to the limits of the stage, instead wandering off to go refill their coffee, look at the call board, enter and exit through the audience, and break the boundaries of the invisible fourth wall.
The characters themselves were the actors in this embedded play, and narration was provided by Lucie Vonau, who portrays the stage manager, reading off script cues and stage directions. The role of director was left to me and my fellow audience members. A “Director” card was on each chair prior to the performance, adding a bit more fun to the viewing experience.
The story of the layered drama was that of Mary and Crick, a married couple destined to be together since the second grade, played by Rita ElJamous and Johnathan Clark. However, a new baby comes along and the family is not quite as picture perfect as it seems. From an over-protective and abusive husband, to a dispute over what to name the child, to deep themes about gender, this play can bring both tears and laughter.
The cowboy in the title references Red, Mary’s rather close “friend” who begins to pose a threat to Crick’s relationship. But Red, played by Emerson Santuomo, brings out the free spirit in Mary. The “song” part comes from the music dispersed throughout our story, a part of the production they are rehearsing. Playing an acoustic guitar and singing along is Emily Hetrick, who played the composer.
With a full range of scenarios, emotions, and witty interactions among the cast, “Late. A Cowboy Song” was a very satisfying and immersive theatrical experience.